Two years ago during Tennessee’s spring football game, I took advantage of sideline access to ask a coach how closely what was going on resembled a real game.
His curt reply: “This is nothing like a real game.’’
And neither was the one played Saturday at Neyland Stadium.
Keep that in mind when judging what you saw in coach Butch Jones’ first Orange and White Game. Or, more importantly, in judging what you didn’t see.
What you saw was one offensive touchdown. What you didn’t see were a bunch of playmakers.
The conclusion would be that Tennessee in 2013 will be a mere shadow of the offense that scored 53 touchdowns and averaged 476 yards a game last fall. The skill players who produced the bulk of those numbers are awaiting the NFL draft this week.
Offensive struggles might very well turn out to be the story of the 2013 season. Just don’t put your season tickets on eBay because Saturday didn’t fast-track any Vols onto the Heisman Trophy checklist.
Spring games, after all, are notorious for providing false leads.
Two years ago, Tyler Bray was 5-of-30 passing on a cold April day. Matt Simms outplayed him.
The first snap of the 2008 spring game produced a 74-yard TD pass from Jonathan Crompton to Denarius Moore. Yeah, that new Dave Clawson offense was going to be a track meet.
In 2004, quarterback hopeful C.J. Leak had a solid spring game and said afterward, “When the lights come on, players make plays.’’
When the lights came on in September, it would be freshmen quarterbacks Erik Ainge and Brent Schaeffer making plays.
And it could be incoming freshmen quarterbacks Joshua Dobbs or Riley Ferguson making plays when the lights come on to start the 2013 season. But I wouldn’t write off either Justin Worley or Nathan Peterman based on Saturday.
There will be at least six wide receivers and four tight ends available who did not play in the spring game. MarQuez North (signee), Jason Croom (injury) and Brendan Downs (injury) might be starters.
Tailback Marlin Lane could be reinstated to compete with Rajion Neal and up-and-comer Alden Hill in the running game. If not, signee Jabo Lee becomes significant.
The offensive line operated Saturday without Tiny Richardson, potentially one of the top tackles in the nation.
Now the long wait has begun. All but the most biased orange-bleeders would concede there are legitimate concerns about this offense.
But remember, what you saw Saturday wasn’t necessarily what you get in the fall.
It was nothing like a real game.